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    Gregoire presents early Christmas present to reformers

    The governor's press conference unveiled strong moves for leaner management and a push toward privatization of the lottery. In addition, a number of senators from both parties are working on a constitutional amendment to block initiatives that require spending but fail to provide the needed funding.

    Gov. Chris Gregoire.

    Gov. Chris Gregoire. Flickr

    After watching the Legislature play the "Grinch that Stole the Balanced Budget" earlier this week it was encouraging to open an early Christmas present offered by governor on Thursday (Dec. 15). 

    At a press conference this morning in Olympia, Gov. Chris Gregoire unveiled several reform initiatives. Among them:

    While there are still many other opportunities for reform, the announcement by the governor is great news and should be greeted with open arms.

    Also discussed at the press conference was the state's six-year budget outlook. One thing that instantly jumped out was the impact that I-728 and I-732 continue to have on state finances.

    According to the governor, with I-728/732 included in the budget in future years, the state will continue to face multi-billion dollar shortfalls. Without them, the budget is projected to be balanced in future years assuming 4.5 percent per year revenue growth.

    Since funding was not identified for the education spending required under I-728/732 (other than surplus funds) when originally adopted and the measures were subsequently suspended during tough budget times, voters were asked in 2004 to approve I-884 and in 2010 to approve I-1098 to pay in-part for the policies of I-728 and I-732. Both measures were overwhelming rejected statewide. 

    As a result of this spending pressure as well as the more recent impact with passage of I-1163 on home health care requirements (despite no funding source being provided), Sens. Dan SweckerDebbie RegalaMike HewittNick HarperMark SchoeslerDon BentonAndy Hill, and Randi Becker have introduced a constitutional amendment that would prohibit initiatives from being placed on the ballot "if it is determined by the secretary of state that the initiative fails to provide a new or enhanced revenue source to pay for any increase in state obligations or duties that are created by the initiative."

    When asked about the proposed constitutional amendment, the governor indicated it is something she would likely vote for.

    Speaking of I-1163, a bill has been introduced by Senators RegalaSweckerBrian HatfieldPaull ShinSchoeslerRodney TomCheryl PflugSteve HobbsJanéa Holmquist-Newbry, and Jim Honeyford to suspend the implementation date until July 1, 2014.

    This story originally appeared on the Washington Policy Center's Washington Policy Blog and is reprinted with permission.

    Jason Mercier is director of the Center for Government Reform at Washington Policy Center, a non-partisan independent policy research organization in Washington state. For more information visit washingtonpolicy.org.

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